Here’s an idea.

I have a lot of confidence in the power of one, the power that each of us has to expand to the limits of our potential and make a difference in the world.

The Power of the Collective

However in my work with business, I strive to catalyze the power of the collective and its ability to fuel the power of one.

Recently I have focussed my attention on trade and professional associations, where I’ve seen a growing desire to understand the sustainability value proposition. These associations seek to help their members develop skills and capacities to keep abreast of and leverage sustainability trends.

Sustainability is Fundamental to Association Mandates

This is not surprising. Today there is a strong business case for sustainability and CSR. In addition, as negative developments in society and the environment begin to affect companies directly, trade and professional associations are motivated to provide guidance and support. The best associations see the challenges of change on the horizon and proactively prepare their members.

I saw early signs of this trend back in 2007 when I prepared a study on trade associations for Natural Resources Canada along with Five Winds International. Now a growing number of associations realize that sustainability is fundamental to their core mandates. They can help their member companies improve sustainability performance management, which in turn can forestall costly government regulation and support a firm’s reputational risk management.

Risk for Professional Associations

The risk for professional associations is neglecting to train their professionals for the emergent sustainability economy.  Imagine a scenario where a certified procurement professional cannot meet their firm’s needs because they haven’t been trained in sustainable supply chain management.  At some point, this will create a reputation risk for the professional association that fails to meet the demands of a changing marketplace.

Leadership Behaviours

The leading trade and professional associations stay on top of sustainability trends and issues and keep their members informed. They convene the industry to discuss sustainability topics that affect their industry or profession. They encourage their members to take up sustainability initiatives and articulate the sustainability value proposition. They set targets for industry advancement, share best practice and develop tools and resources, as well as industry sustainability standards and codes of practice.

Challenges for Trade Associations and Sustainability

But there are challenges for trade associations that seek to advance a sustainability agenda. In the 1990s when I was on the board of a trade association, I faced a number of barriers in my efforts as a director to advance a CSR program for the members. A big one was the membership’s lack of CSR awareness and therefore low demand for CSR leadership. As well, smaller members lacked the resources of larger ones to engage and the association tended to err on the side of the lowest common denominator to get buy-in.

Since then, the business case for sustainability has become clear.  I suspect that over the coming years, more and more associations – whether industry or professional – will start to tackle these issues to raise CSR competency in their members.

Credit Union Central of Canada’s CSR Information Hub

To that end, I am privileged to work with Credit Union Central of Canada (CUCC) in the development of their “Credit Union Social Responsibility Information Hub”.  First, the association, which represents 470 credit unions outside of Quebec, developed a position statement on CSR. Then they launched a website with tools and case studies to help their members improve their CSR performance.

With leadership such as this, CUCC and associations the world over have the power to catalyze sustainability and CSR in the marketplace and get the economy rolling toward a sustainable future.

So yes, there is power in one – but there is even more potential for change when many band together.


Coro’s Blog Topics

Blog

Published June 19, 2017

Vancity – a Force For Good

Vancity, Canada’s largest community credit union, has achieved the title of Canada’s Best Corporate Citizen for the second year in a row.

Published June 6, 2017

Accelerating Sustainability Visions for the Future

If you haven’t updated your sustainability or corporate social responsibility approach in the last few years, you are putting your company at risk.

Published April 28, 2017

Progressing Past the CSR Plateau

Corporate social responsibility is stuck. When it emerged on the scene 20 years ago, businesses and other stakeholders had high expectations for what a focus on CSR could deliver. But the reality is that neither business nor society are on track to enable nine billion people to live well within the boundaries of the planet by 2050 – let alone 2030.

Published March 10, 2017

Sea Change Ahead: Upgrade Your Sustainability Vision Story

If your sustainability strategy is three or more years old, time to chart a new course with a refreshed, ambitious Sustainability Vision.

Published February 10, 2017

Governance and Sustainability: The New Normal

Boards are the last great sustainability frontier. They set the sustainability tone at the top, which then cascades throughout the company.

2011-03-15

Catalyzing the Power of the Collective to Fuel Sustainability

Here’s an idea. I have a lot of confidence in the power of one, the power that each of us has to expand to the limits of our potential and make a difference in the world.
2011-02-10

Why sustainability accounting systems are like daffodils

Apologies to those of you buried in snow – here in Vancouver, I see the first signs of spring. As I watch tender green daffodil shoots push up through the cold earth, I am reminded of how difficult it can be to break ground and how important it is to nurture emerging ideas.
2011-01-06

Make a Resolution, Reach Your Goal

Considering a New Year’s resolution? Well here’s a good reason to commit. Research shows that “People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don't explicitly make resolutions.”
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